The pleural space is a virtual compartment between the lung and chest wall that becomes filled with fluid and inflammatory cells during a variety of respiratory diseases. Here, we study the potential role of the eicosanoid metabolite leukotriene B4 (LTB4) in disparate diseases leading to acute (pneumonia) or chronic (tuberculosis, cancer) inflammation of the pleural space. LTB4 concentrations were significantly higher in pleural fluid due to pneumonia, tuberculosis and cancer with respect to congestive heart failure and correlated with neutrophil elastase, which is used as an indication of state of activation of neutrophils in the pleural space. Moreover, pleural LTB4 was biologically active, as an anti-LTB4 antibody partially neutralized the chemotactic activity of parapneumonic, tuberculous and cancer effusions. Macrophages, neutrophils, lymphocytes, mesothelial cells and cancer cells all expressed mRNA for 5-lipoxygenase, the enzyme that initiates leukotriene synthesis leading to the production of LTB4, in exudative pleural effusions. Upon stimulation in transudative pleural effusions, pleural macrophages produced, in a time-dependent fashion, a significantly higher concentration of LTB4 than mesothelial cells. These studies demonstrate that different cell types are capable of producing LTB4 in the inflamed pleural space and that this mediator may play a crucial role in the recruitment of neutrophils into the pleural space.